Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Design-Build Lessons

By Isaac Grayson

I have had the opportunity to take part in a design build project for ARC 242. In years past the class has constructed full size wall sections in the courtyard of Quigley Hall. But this year Chad Schwartz and his students are trying something different. This year the project is to overhaul the amphitheater out at Touch of Nature.
                My role in this project is just to help during the construction process, and attempt to foresee problems and help the students solve them. We have several problems pop-up but thankfully they have all been solvable with some field sketching and on site problem solving. I will be the first admit that I do not know everything  that is going on, nor do I know how to solve every problem that arises, but as a group we have been able to accomplish a lot. And I have learned a lot from this experience.
                Getting the opportunity to build, at full scale, is a rare opportunity during school. Often we draw, play on the computer, and build some scaled models. These things help solidify our ideas but they don’t teach like full construction can. For example there are several structures being built along with the amphitheater. The one I have had the most involvement with is the pathway bench. When we were constructing this bench we were referring to drawings produced in class. We quickly learned that the dimensions on the drawing were not sufficient to properly build the bench. Or rather the dimensions were there but to get the numbers needed we had to do a fair amount of fractional inch math, which always has a tendency to lead to errors.
                Probably the most comical dimension string was one that called out bottom of footing to top of beam. It may look fine on the paper but it’s a comical process to see people’s faces realize that you cannot measure from the bottom of footing. Especially now that they are all full of concrete and surrounded by dirt. It’s these kind of lessons that can be rigorously repeated in a classroom setting but they don’t really click until an individual is faced with the situation in real life. Now this group of students will be able to properly dimension to inform the builders of their future projects.

                We are coming up to our third scheduled build day. The goal was to be putting the finishing touches on the structure now. We are nowhere near that. Granted as usual it took a large amount of time to place the footings correctly. But now we are getting framing in place so we should begin to see the designs manifest themselves before our eyes. 

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